Politics blog

Steve Owens’ challenge to Rep. Reykdal is first in 22nd district since redistricting

OlympianMay 15, 2014 

Two years ago, Democratic incumbents in Olympia’s 22nd Legislative District had it easy. No one filed to challenge Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia, Rep. Chris Reykdal of Tumwater or Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County. 

That won’t happen this time.

Republican software engineer Steve Owens of Olympia filed Monday for Reykdal’s seat and will give voters a choice in 2014, as well as test the notion that the 22nd belongs to Democrats. Franklin Edwards III of Olympia filed to run against Hunt late Wednesday, citing no party preference. Fraser isn’t up for re-election.

Owens is an Olympia resident and software engineer who previously served in the Navy and earned a college degree in Connecticut. He posted a statement about his reasons for running on his campaign web site, which said, in part:

"Our state needs leadership that will solve problems not create regulations. Our children need quality educations, and we need to spend our resources wisely to ensure that they are afforded as good or better opportunities for their future than the ones we ourselves have enjoyed. We need to respect our veterans and be ever grateful for the service they have given to our country. We need real solutions when it comes to protecting the environment. Environmental regulation without common sense leads to bureaucracy not clean air, and water. With regard to climate change we need to focus on solutions that will both reduce our carbon footprint and provide local jobs, not on Carbon Trading ponzi schemes which move jobs and pollution over seas where we are unable to regulate it, while punishing the people who we are supposed to represent."
Owens declined other comment - after retracting an emailed statement he sent to the newspaper. He claimed copyright control over the statement and insisted any excerpts of the statement first needed his permission before being quoted.  

Reykdal is in his second two-year term, and Hunt is in his seventh, and both candidates say they are looking forward to the debate that comes with a campaign.

In two terms since winning in 2010 in a crowded field, Reykdal has advocated for tax reform, ending several tax breaks and putting the new money into K-12 public schools. He said he now wants to improve financial aid through the State Need Grant, which is running short of demand, and to restore funding cut from natural resources agencies. 

Edwards initially filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission as a Libertarian but said he disagrees with the party on union organizing rights, which he supports as a union carpenter. So he filed without party affiliation.

He said Hunt has done good things for labor in the past but has been in office long enough. “It’s time to step aside and let in new blood with new ideas,’’ Edwards said.

Edwards identified a handful of issues he’ll run on – his opposition to any “right-to-work” legislation that would undermine collective bargaining and to make sure that taxes collected on state transportation projects are put back into projects instead of going into the state general fund. He said he hopes taxes generated by marijuana sales under Initiative 502 can fill any gap that the transportation-tax proposal leaves in state accounts that fund K-12 schools and government agency programs.

He also said he wants to lawmakers to regulate medical marijuana, but to keep the recreational and medical marijuana markets separate. 

Edwards won an endorsement from his union, South Sound Carpenters Local 129, and he hopes for more as he tries to also raise funds to overcome Hunt’s name familiarity with voters. The union also endorsed Hunt and Reykdal.

“Being the new guy on the block it’s hard to get your name out there,’’ Edwards said. “I’ve been going to Democratic events and Republican events, too.’’ 

Hunt said he welcomes the challenge.  The incumbent has favored tax reform, better funding for schools and bills to protect the environment and worker rights. He said he also wants to advocate for further election reforms including election-day voter registration.

Whether Owens or Edwards win or lose, their two challenges should reveal whether the redistricting in 2011-12 had any significant effect on the 22nd district’s shade of blue. Hunt received almost 72 percent of the vote in 2010 against Chris Ward and Reykdal got nearly 61 percent against Jason Hearn.

The district includes Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the north end of Thurston County. Redistricting moved some voters on the edge of the 22nd district into the more conservative 35th and 2nd districts, and both incumbents say the changes might have made the district more Democratic. 

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